The Cubs announced Thursday they’ve added catcher José Lobatón and right-handed pitchers Cory Abbott and Tyson Miller to their 60-man player pool, which now stands at 57. Each player will report to the club’s South Bend training site.
The Cubs signed Lobatón to a minor league deal on Tuesday with an invitation to Summer Camp. He’s a career .215/.293/.319 hitter and known more for his work behind the plate.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday the team needed extra depth at catcher, citing the unique circumstances of the 2020 season. Teams will have 30 players on their Opening Day rosters and the Cubs could carry three catchers — Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini and Josh Phegley — out of the gate.
Each team is allowed to bring a three-player “taxi squad” on road trips to have players available in case of injury or a positive COVID-19 test. One of those three must be a catcher, meaning the Cubs could start the season bringing four catchers on the road.
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The Cubs now have five catchers in their player pool, and Lobatón and P.J. Higgins give them two players to catch the pitchers in South Bend and be available for the big league team if needed.
“We’re going to have a lot of a lot of players, a lot of pitchers in South Bend and we don't want to run short on catching,” Hoyer told reporters Thursday. “We are concerned about having enough catchers and as we know, catchers go down often.
“It’s an injury-prone position and we have to make sure we have enough guys that have caught major league games that can contribute to the team.”
Abbott, 24, spent last season with Double-A Tennessee, sporting a 3.01 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 26 starts. He’s the Cubs’ No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com.
Miller spent last season with Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, posting a 4.35 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 26 starts. His ERA with Iowa was 7.58 (11 starts) compared to 2.56 (15) with Tennessee. He’s listed as the club’s No. 22 prospect.